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France adopts reform of debt-ridden pension system

People demonstrate against against a government pension reform bill as French upper house is about to vote this bill that would increase working years and boost contributions on December 18, 2013 in Paris

Lawmakers on Wednesday adopted a reform of France's debt-ridden pension system after the country faced pressure from the European Union.

The reform, adopted in final reading by the National Assembly in a show-of-hands vote, raises the pay-in period for pension contributions from the current 41.5 years to 43 years by 2035, meaning employees will need to work longer to be eligible for full pensions.

To balance out the increase, the reform makes it easier for workers in more difficult jobs -- including for example some labourers and night workers -- to retire early with full pensions.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said after the vote that he was "proud" of the "balanced" reform, which he said was carried out "the French way".

France is under pressure from the European Union to plug holes that will see its generous state pension scheme fall into the red by more than 20 billion euros ($26.5 billion) by 2020.

President Francois Hollande's government has moved softly on the reform and, despite some protests, there was no significant public opposition.

Previous attempts at overhauling the pensions system sparked mass demonstrations and costly strikes in 1995 and 2010.

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